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The Work Number is a user-paid verification of employment database created by TALX Corporation.[1] TALX was acquired by Equifax Inc. in February 2007.[2]

The Work Number allows requestors to receive immediate confirmation of an individual's employment and salary for verification purposes. The fee for this information is revealed only after the requester answers several personal questions.[3]

It is used by over 50,000 organizations to verify employment data.[4]

Some organizations that use the Work Number include Fannie Mae,[5] Hilton Hotels,[6] Rent-A-Center,[6] the United States Postal Service,[6] Domino's Pizza,[3] the University of Pennsylvania,[7] and the University of Missouri System.[8] Founded in 1995,[9] The Work Number has over 225 million employment records.[10]

The Work Number is an example of outsourcing of a Human Resources department function.

Additionally, the adoption of The Work Number causes a change in the financial responsibility for verification of employment. In typical organizations, the cost of a verification of employment is borne completely by the employer and the actual cost of service is absorbed into the human resource department budget. In organizations using The Work Number, the cost is borne by the requestor of verification, who purchases either a single verification or a package of multiple verifications from TALX.


Data collectedEdit

The Work Number collects weekly salary information, which is as up to date as the last pay period and can go back many years. It also collects length of employment, job titles, "location information", and "other kinds of human resources-related information, such as health care provider, whether someone has dental insurance and if they’ve ever filed an unemployment claim."[11]


Cost savingsEdit

The service reduces the amount of time required for Human Resource departments to respond to employment verification requests. If Human Resource departments manage a large number of employees, such as universities, seasonal employers, etc. the amount of time savings and cost savings could be considerable.

Access controlEdit

Employees of a company or organization using The Work Number's services receive an account that is set up for them on the website. Current, and presumably, former employees can log on to The Work Number at any time.

Employees cannot control access to their records by any entity or person which knows their social security number.

If the employee wishes for a requestor to see his or her salary history, the employee logs on and obtains a 6-digit code, which he or she passes on to the requestor. Without that particular 6-digit code, the requestor is not allowed to view salary of the employee.

Equifax advertises and sells some data to third parties. Companies including "mortgage, auto and other financial services credit grantors" may request pay rate information similar to a credit report. Also, "debt/collection agencies may request employment information" to verify someone's place of employment.[11]

Instant availability of recordsEdit

Additionally, as soon as the requester receives permission from an applicant to access the record, and the fee is paid (if required), it is instantly available.

Objective nature of recordsEdit

The system reports factual information only, such as length of employment and job title. Some employers feel this reduces the risk of legal liability over the subjective content of personal references.

Similarly, if an employee is concerned that a supervisor might share unfavorable information or be unwilling to verify employment, The Work Number provides some protection from this, as the system only reports objective data. It does not include performance reviews.

Additional HR servicesEdit

The Work Number, if set up for this service by the employer, may provide duplicate copies of W-2 forms through the employee's online portal.

Social services fee waiverEdit

The Work Number generally charges for verification data. However, fees are waived for Federal, State, or County Social Service Departments, who are providing benefits such as the Food Stamp program or TANF to their low-income/welfare applicants. The reports are sent by fax and may take a few days to be sent. Certain expedited services or advanced services may have fees attached.[12]

To qualify for reduced or waived fees, the agency must register with The Work Number using an official fax number. Agencies that can take advantage of this service include eligibility programs, public housing, child support enforcement, and other public assistance needs. A "batch service" for multiple requests is also available.


2013 sale of sensitive personal informationEdit

In January 2013, The Work Number was criticized for selling access to people's ostensibly private data, especially salary data, to third parties, without the informed consent of the subject.[13][14] Organisations affected included Columbia University, and third parties included debt collection companies.[13][14]

The director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse stated, "I think [this] is something that would be offensive to many people. One typically considers salary information to be shared by your employer just with IRS."[13]

2017 exposure of Americans' salary dataEdit

On 8 October 2017, Brian Krebs reported that The Work Number exposed the salary histories for employees of tens of thousands of U.S. companies to anyone in possession of the employee's Social Security number and date of birth.[15][16] For roughly half the U.S. population, both of the latter pieces of data are known to be in possession of criminals, following Equifax's May-July 2017 security breach.[15][16]

Identity theft concernsEdit

Recently, internet security issues at sites that contain "sensitive" information has become a big business for hackers. Questions regarding the safety of various websites that offer services (such as The Work Number) that contains this information may be compromised by hackers (and may be a future target for hackers) and a problem for internet security officials. Call center is located in Costa Rica and requires Social Security Number adding more risk to identity theft.[citation needed]

Profit motiveEdit

The Work Number charges a fee to the requesting party for each Employment Verification. Requestors can choose a "pay per use" plan or can select a package which includes a certain number of verifications per month.[17]

Because a fee (up to $45.95 per verification) is required, this increases the financial cost of verifying an individual's employment. There is a risk this cost could be passed on to the applicant.

Mandatory usage policiesEdit

Some organizations are making use of The Work Number mandatory as the only way for employees or verifiers to receive information about a staffer's employment. This limits the availability of personalized, subjective, or qualitative references. It also requires a fee be paid each time a verification is required.

Inaccurate or out of date informationEdit

Some consumers have complained to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse that "the data in its database is inaccurate," or that "when they try to use the information for employment verification, their titles are outdated or otherwise misrepresent their work history."[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "TALX Surpasses 100 Million Employment Records on The Work Number". PR Web. 9 September 2004. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  2. ^ "Equifax Announces Agreement to Acquire TALX Corporation in a Transaction Valued at $1.4 Billion". PR Newswire. 14 February 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Domino's Pizza, Inc. Selects The Work Number from TALX Corp. for Outsourced Salary and Employment Verification". Business Wire. 2 September 1998. Retrieved 12 November 2008.[dead link]
  4. ^ Yip, Pamela (19 March 2008). "Life At Work: Work Number compiles employment info for firms". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  5. ^ "Fannie Mae Selects The Work Number To Streamline HR Operations Through Automation". Business Wire. 13 July 2000. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  6. ^ a b c "Equifax's TALX Unit Adds Major Clients to the Work Number Service". PR Newswire. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  7. ^ "The University of Pennsylvania Selects the Work Number for Automated, Outsourced Employment and Salary Verifications, Expanding the National Database to More Than 27 Million Salary Records". Business Wire. 11 May 1999. Retrieved 12 November 2008.[dead link]
  8. ^ "The University of Missouri Income and Employment Verification". Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  9. ^ "For Talx Corp., the payoff is in its Work Number". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 11 June 2006. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  10. ^ "Equifax Workforce Solutions Welcomes 3,000th Client to The Work Number Service, Coldwater Creek, Expands Delivery of Instant Employment Verifications to 225 Million Payroll Records" (PDF). 19 November 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  11. ^ a b c "EXCLUSIVE: Your employer may share your salary, and Equifax might sell that data". NBC News. January 30, 2013. Archived from the original on February 3, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  12. ^ "Work Number - Social Services". Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  13. ^ a b c d Tape, Red (Jan 30, 2013). "EXCLUSIVE: Your employer may share your salary, and Equifax might sell that data". NBC News. NBC.
  14. ^ a b c Fairchild, Caroline (30 January 2013). "Equifax Sells Private Information To Debt Collectors In 'Biggest Privacy Breach In Our Time': Report [UPDATE]". Huffington Post.
  15. ^ a b "Equifax Breach Fallout: Your Salary History — Krebs on Security". Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Equifax will give your salary history to anyone with your SSN and date of birth / Boing Boing". Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Work Number Payment Plans". Retrieved 18 August 2009.

External linksEdit